1st Edition

Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases

By Laura Gail Pettler Copyright 2016
    416 Pages 20 Color Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    416 Pages 20 Color Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    Individuals who perpetrate murder sometimes pose or reposition victims, weapons, and evidence to make it look like events happened in a different way than what actually transpired. Until now, there has been scarce literature published on crime scene staging.

    Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases is the first book to look at this practice, providing a methodology of identifying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating the evidence of each case by learning to marry the physical evidence to the behavioral evidence.

    The book begins with the history of crime scene staging and includes many case examples that illustrate how, when, and why criminals stage crime scenes. The characteristics of crime scene stagers and their victims are examined along with the intent of crime scene staging and dynamics of the staged crime scene. In addition, coverage of forensic victimology explores the reasons why a person might become a victim and why, based on this, staging may be performed.

    The book emphasizes the importance of recognizing behavioral red flags which are often present in staged crime scenes. These indicators can be commonly overlooked by investigators when they focus only on the physical evidence of a crime scene. Early detection, crime scene analysis, and crime scene reconstruction of the staged crime scene are each supported—by the full body of literature and latest published research on staging as well as by proven real-world, field-based methodologies.

    The book identifies and describes various types of crime scene staging behavioral patterns, presenting the complications and challenges that crime scene staging presents for investigators. This book will be an invaluable tool for forensic scientists, investigators, homicide detectives, and law enforcement to understand all aspects of crime scene staging dynamics.


    History of Crime Scene Staging
    Early Historical References to Crime Scene Staging
         1514 The Story of Richard Hunne
         1841 The Story of Mister
         1859 The Budge Case
         1882 Bloodstains on the Doorjamb
         1882 Dr. Carl Liman and Staged Weapons
         1887 Dr. Eduard R. von Hofman Murder Staged as Suicide 
         1892 Lizzie Borden 
         Glaister 1902 
         1924 Hans Gross
         1936 O’Connell and Soderman 
         1962 Soderman and O’Connell 
         1972 O’Hara and Osterberg
         1974 Svensson and Wendel
    Contemporary References to Crime Scene Staging 
         1984 Puschel, Holtz, Hildebrand, Naeve, Brinkman
         1989 Ueno, Fukanaga, Nakagawa, Imabayashi, Fukiwara, Adachi, Mizoi 
         1992 Douglas and Munn 
         1996 Geberth 
         1996–2006 Geberth 
         1996 Leth and Vesterby 
         1998 Yamamoto, Hayase, Matsumoto, Yamamoto
         1998 Mallach and Pollak 
         1999 Adair and Dobersen 
         1999–2011 Turvey 
         2000 Turvey
         2001 Meloy 
         2002 Adair 
         2004 Hazelwood and Napier 
         2004 Keppel and Weis
         2006 Douglas and Douglas 
         Eke 2007 
         2007, 2011 Chisum and Turvey 
         2009 Cobin 
         2010 Geberth
         2011 Ferguson
         2011 Pettler 
         2012 Schlesinger, Gardenier, Jarvis, and Sheehan-Cook
         2014 Chancellor and Graham
         2014 Ferguson 
         2015 Pettler
    Summary of Crime Scene Staging Literature

    Introduction to Crime Scene Staging
    Staging versus Scene Alteration
    Staging versus Precautionary Acts
    Crime Scene Staging Statistics and No Repository
    Crime Scene Staging Is a Problem

    Crime Scene Dynamics
    Heart of It All: Ethics 
         Death Scene Characteristics Indicative of Homicide
    Anatomy of a Homicide 
         Physical Evidence 
         Behavioral Evidence
         Circumstantial Evidence 
         Body as Evidence
    Staged Scenes versus Other Types of Scenes


    Offender Characteristics and Behaviors
    Offender Characteristics 
         Offenders Are Most Often Male 
    Crime Scene Staging Behavior
    Categorizing Crime Scene Staging Behaviors 
         Crime Scene Staging, Research, and Typologies 
         Evaluating Typologies
    Building Theories about Crime Scene Staging 
         Development of a Substantiated Theory on Crime Scene Staging
         Pettler’s 2011 Theory of Crime Scene Staging 
         Breaking Down the Theory: The Problem of Crime Scene Staging
         Breaking Down the Theory: The Problem for Society
         Breaking Down the Theory: Identifying Solutions 
         Breaking Down the Theory: Strengths and Weaknesses

    Defining Victimology
    Victimology Theory 
         Case Example
    Victimology and Politics
    Importance of Victimology 
         Case Example
    Research-Based Forensic Victimology: A Suggested Approach 
         Taxonomic Hierarchal Arrangement of Victimological Components 
         Conceptual Model of Research-Based Forensic Victimology 
         Implications of Research-Based Forensic Victimology 
              Physiological: Victim’s Physical Demographics and Attributes 
              Safety: Victim in Relation to Personal, Familial, Financial, and Occupational Safety
              Love and Belonging: Victim in Relation to Relationships
              Esteem: Victim in Relation to Personality, Cognition, Emotionality, Behavior, and Achievement 
              Self-Actualization: Victim in Relation to Relative Adoption of Worldly Concepts 
    Victim–Offender Relationship 
         Importance of Victim–Offender Relationship Examination
         Importance of Victim–Offender Relationship: Circumstantial Evidence 
         Facilitation, Precipitation, and Victim Risk 
              Case Example
              Case Example 
         Assessing Risk Level

    Purposes and Motives
         Disconnecting the Victim–Offender Relationship
         Misdirect Investigations 
         Avoid Apprehension
    Motives for Murder 
         Motive 1: Argument/Conflict/Confrontation 
         Motive 2: Property Gain 
         Motive 3: Robbery 
         Motive 4: Sexual Assault

    Intimate Partner Violence 
         Intimate Partner Violence and Risk Factors Indicating Lethality 
         Case Example 
         Physical Abuse 
         Emotional Abuse 
         Psychological Abuse (Mental Abuse)
         Sexual Abuse 
         Economic Abuse
    Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence
         Physical Consequences 
         Psychological Consequences
         Lifestyle-Related Consequences
    Intimate Partner Homicide
         Intimicide Characteristics 
         Intimicide Dynamics 
         Power–Anger Conceptual Continuum 
         Intimicide Homicidal Pattern
    Criminal Profiling and Its Value toward
         Predicting Risk and Preventing Lethality in Intimicide 
         Intimicide Offender Characteristics

    Types of Staging
    Homicides Staged as Suicides 
         Case Example 
         Suicide and Firearms 
         The Betty "Bea" Lafon Johnson Malone Flynn Sills Gentry Neumar 
         Case Example 
         Case Example
    Homicides Staged as Robberies, Home Invasions, and Burglaries
         Case Example
    Homicides Staged as Accidents 
         Case Example 
         Case Example
    Homicides Staged as Car Accidents
    Homicides Staged as Sexual Homicides 
         Case Example
    Homicides Staged as Self-Defense Cases 
         Case Example
    Homicides Staged as Missing Persons 
         Case Example 
         Case Example


    Crime Identification: Detecting Deception
    Bloom’s Taxonomy 
         Phase 1: Knowledge, Comprehension, and Application 
         Phase 2: Analysis 
         Phase 3: Synthesis and Evaluation
    Victim-Centered Death Investigation Methodology (VCDIM) 
         Suggested Approach 
         Overview of the VCDIM Process 
         VCDIM: Outline 
         VCDIM Stage 1: Crime Scene Knowledge
         Staging Identification Trilogy 
              Conflict and Confrontation 
              Victim Discovery
              Verbal Staging
    Crime Scene Investigation
         Assumption of Integrity 
         Constellation Theory
    VCDIM Stage 2: Crime Scene Comprehension
    VCDIM Stage 3: Application of the Crime Scene Processing

    Crime Analysis
    Victim-Centered Death Investigation Methodology: Outline
    VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis
    VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 1 (Victimology)
    VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 2 (Crime Scene and Lab Reports)
         Victim Discovery and Notification 
         Time, Date, Location, and Number of Crime Scenes
         Initial Contact Location
         Murder Scene Location 
         Victim Recovery and Disposal Site Location 
         First Responders 
         Crime Scene Logs 
         Points of Entry and Exit 
         Sketches and Maps 
         Evidence Lists 
         Evidence of Staging 
         Cleaning the Crime Scene 
         Hiding and Removing Evidence 
         Creating Evidence
         Destroying Evidence
    VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 3 (Autopsy: Wound Pattern Analysis) 
         Physical Evidence on the Body
         Time of Death 
         Evidence of Injury
    VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 5 (Suspectology)
    VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 5 (Statement Analysis) 
         "How-To": Organize to Multiple Statements 
         Detecting Deception 
         Types of Narratives
    VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 6 (The Scientific Method) 
         Bloodstain Pattern Analysis 
         Shooting Incident Reconstruction 
         Kaleidoscope System

    Crime Synthesis and Evaluation
    Summary of Crime Scene Staging Behaviors and Characteristics
    VCDIM Outline 
         VCDIM Stage 5: Crime Synthesis 
         Before, During, and After the Death of the Victim 
         Victim-Centered Modified Triangulation: Empirical, Quasi-Empirical, and Nonempirical 
         Tying It All Together 
         VCDIM Stage 6: Crime Evaluation

    Custom Art
    Crime Scene Staging Awareness Initiative
    Recommendations for Future Research 
         Expanded Sample Sizes 
         Staging Prevalence and Frequency 
         Staging and the CSI Effect
         Offender Characteristics and Behaviors 
         Victim Characteristics: Victimological Studies 
         Victim–Offender Relationship 
         Conflict and Confrontation
         Victim Discovery 
         Verbal Staging 
         Behavioral Taxonomy 
         Crime Scene Staging and Law Enforcement Professionals
    American Cold Case Epidemic
    American Investigative Society of Cold Cases
    Cold Cases and Crime Scene Staging

    Appendix A:
    Research-Based Forensic Victimology

    Appendix B:
    Victim-Centered Death Investigation Methodology Outline

    Appendix C:
    Crime Synthesis Matrix

    Appendix D:
    Physical Evidence Inventory and Information Worksheet

    Appendix E:
    Crime Scene Photo Log Worksheet

    Appendix F:
    Wound Pattern Analysis Worksheet

    Appendix G:
    Statement Analysis Worksheet

    Appendix H:
    Prereconstruction Checklist



    Laura Gail Pettler is a forensic criminologist, author, educator, and inventor. She is a crusader for justice for victims in homicide cases. Laura is dedicated to using her life to make a difference. Laura holds a bachelor of science degree in preprofessional psychology; a master of science degree in criminal justice where she focused on death investigation, forensic psychology, and aspects of forensic science; and a doctor of philosophy degree in public safety specializing in criminal justice where she focused on forensic criminology and specifically on the study of intimate partner violence and crime scene staging behaviors. Laura is an International Association for Identification (IAI) Certified Senior Crime Scene analyst and is the chairwoman of the IAI’s Bloodstain Pattern Analysis Subcommittee.

    Laura was inducted into the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC) and served one year on its honorary review board while simultaneously serving as AISOCC’s Director of Development before being promoted to vice president in 2014. Laura dedicates a tremendous amount of time and resources toward furthering AISOCC’s mission in support of cold case victims and their family in the pursuit of justice.

    "...it is my hope that this book, the first one written on staging, will help investigators, prosecutors, and academicians to begin building a body of work that will bring more killers to justice. Laura Pettler has proposed new conceptual and practical theories here that I hope will get the readers’ creative juices flowing and aid investigators in convicting more of the guilty and sending more of the innocent home."
    —From the Book’s Foreword by Michael D. Parker, Esq., Retired Former District Attorney, Prosecutorial District 20A, North Carolina, USA